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Staff Picks for Young Adult

Cover art for Anya's Ghost

Anya's Ghost

Written by Vera Brosgol

In this graphic novel, teenager Anya falls down an abandoned well and meets a ghost, who becomes her constant companion. At first this is great; the ghost helps Anya track the movements of the jock she has a crush on, become a part of the cool kids’ social scene, and with school tests (O.K., technically, the ghost helps Anya cheat during school tests). However, as time goes by, Anya begins to wonder if those are the things that are really important. This is definitely a ghost story, with a scary side, but Brosgol also humorously and completely realistically captures the various indignities and insecurities of high school, and the monochromatic illustrations (my favorite part) are fantastic.

Recommended by Catherine
Cover art for Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens

Written by Libba Bray
Audio Book

What happens when 50 teenage beauty contestants crash onto a desert island? A hilarious cross between Lord of the Flies and the Miss Teen USA pageant. Don’t worry, that’s a good thing. The girls must decide whether to keep prepping for the pageant, even when rescue seems hopeless, or learn how to survive in the wild. Plus, there is something not quite right with the island. It might not be so deserted after all!

Available as a book, audiobook or downloadable audiobook.

Recommended by Kate
Cover art for Horse, Flower, Bird: Stories

Horse, Flower, Bird: Stories

Written by Kate Bernheimer

There’s something to be said for books that in addition to being short, or a quick read, are also small in dimension. Like a great gift in a small package, Horse, Flower, Bird is a wildly original short work featuring a sparse style of prose that disarms the reader just enough for the well-crafted lines to pack their punch. Part fractured-fairy tale, part dream diary, let this collection, small enough to pack along anywhere, take you on a daydream adventure.

Recommended by Jonas
Cover art for If I Ever Get Out of Here

If I Ever Get Out of Here

Written by Eric Gansworth

Lewis is the only Native American in the advanced track at his school. The other Indians may be proud of him, but he goes through the day in different classes and is friendless. He cuts off his braid in an effort to get the white kids to see him differently. The only result is his own feeling of loss.
This book explores a friendship between Lewis and a white Air Force "brat" who is into the similarities between Lewis and himself, rather than the differences. It is, however, a rare but honest look at culture and how people with vastly different upbringings and identities can clash. And dance. And laugh. Gansworth informs readers about cultural difference, but he doesn't beat anyone up as he does it.

Recommended by LouAnn
Cover art for Life As We Knew It

Life As We Knew It

Written by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Miranda is preoccupied with the usual high school concerns; her friends, keeping her grades up, sports, and trying to get along with her Mom and brothers. As far as she can tell, the fact that an asteroid is about to hit the moon is just an excuse for her teachers to give more homework. It turns out to be much, much worse than that.

Written in diary format, Life As We Knew It tells the story of Miranda's family's fight for survival in the wake of a terrible natural disaster that affects the entire world. Pfeffer captures the isolation and day-to-day struggle of living in a time when nothing is certain. I read this book in one sitting because I couldn't put it down.

Recommended by Catherine

P.S. Continue the series with The Dead and the Gone, This World We Live In, and, coming in August 2013, The Shade of the Moon.
Cover art for Rain Is Not My Indian Name

Rain Is Not My Indian Name

Written by Cynthia Leitich Smith

14 year-old Rain Berghoff is grieving for her best friend Galen, who might have become more than a friend except for his untimely death in an accident. For a long time, Rain withdraws from the world, but a chance to work as a photographer for the local paper, and a political controversy over her Aunt Georgia's Indian Camp, draws Rain out of her grief. I like this author's work, and this glowing story of a girl coming to terms with all kinds of complicated things is particularly good.

Recommended by LouAnn
Cover art for Revenge of the Witch

Revenge of the Witch

Written by Joseph Delaney
Illustrated by Patrick Arrasmith

I've been reading The Last Apprentice chapter book series for several years now, and the books just keep getting better and better. Tom Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son, which makes him uniquely qualified to become a spook, that is, the person whose job is to protect the inhabitants of the county from witches, boggarts, ghosts, ghasts, and other dangerous supernatural creatures. He has been apprenticed to the current spook, John Gregory, to learn all the necessary skills, and here the adventure begins.

The Last Apprentice books are a bit scary, with well-developed characters, plenty of supernatural villains of all kinds, a detailed and complete world, and a story that keeps building with each successive entry, plus great spooky illustrations. Good for both adults and kids who like a scary story, this reminds me a bit of the Ranger's Apprentice stories, by John Flanagan. Try Revenge of the Witch to get started!

Recommended by Catherine
Cover art for Scorpio Races

Scorpio Races

Written by Maggie Stiefvater

Scorpio Races is a fantasy novel about horse-racing, romance and sea monsters. Set on a small island reminiscent of the Northern U.K. the story draws from Celtic mythology. However, this is so much more than a fairy tale re-hashing. The story is gripping and a little haunting. If you enjoyed the Hunger Games series or the October Daye (urban fantasy) series you might enjoy this book.

Recommended by Alli
Cover art for Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

Written by Jessica George

In a northern land gripped by an endless winter, a girl known only to friends and family as “the lass” yearns to help her family in any way that she can. Most important to the lass is her oldest brother’s happiness, stripped away after he came back from working on the seas. One day the family is approached with an interesting proposition: if the lass agrees to go away and live in a castle for one year, her family will earn all the riches they desire. There is only one catch: this proposal is offered by a great white bear, who can’t explain why he wants the lass to live with him. The lass agrees, and soon she is whisked away to live in a giant ice castle staffed with magical creatures. Only something isn’t right, and while the lass has everything she could want, she feels there is more to the story than the bear is telling her. Those familiar with the fairy tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” will know what happens next, everyone else will be delighted with this fast paced tale.

Recommended by Kate
Cover art for The Great Death

The Great Death

Written by John Smelcer

Two young sisters are the only survivors after a mysterious illness kills the rest of their village. Together they set off through a treacherous land in search of other survivors. Is this the latest post-apocalyptic speculative fiction? Unfortunately, no. The Great Death is set in Alaska in early 1900s when a worldwide pandemic killed an estimated sixty to seventy percent of the Alaska Native population. The characters are inspired by the life of the author’s grandmother and great-aunt. Despite the grim subject, this book reads like a nail-biting survival adventure. The sisters’ love for each other and their hope in a better future are inspiring, as is their knowledge of the natural world. I'm always a sucker for survival stories and Alaska history, but the pace is quick and adventure exciting enough to entice any reader not just genre fans. I recommend it wholeheartedly to any adult or teen, but don’t miss the opportunity to read it with your upper-elementary aged child if they are ready to grasp the themes. If they can't get enough of the "Hunger Games" try giving them some reality.

Recommended by Amelia
Cover art for Tomorrow When the War Began

Tomorrow When the War Began

Written by John Marsden

When Ellie and her friends decide to go backpacking in the Bush over the winter holidays, their biggest concern is whether to pack pita bread or jam doughnuts. They return from the wilderness five days later feeling pleased with their exploration and adventure, glad to have missed the annual Commemoration Day fair in their small Australian town. However, it is soon apparent that something has gone terribly wrong. Their pets and livestock are dead or dying from neglect, their houses are empty, and their parents are gone. Then they encounter the foreign soldiers. Ellie and the others face an impossible decision: they can hide in the Bush, they can surrender, or they can fight.

I love everything about this book, and I’m not alone in that assessment. ‘Tomorrow’ was listed by the American Librarian Association as one of the best books for young adults in 1996 (the year it was published in the U.S.) and has won about 12 other awards. Its strength, I feel, comes from its amazing characters. They are psychologically and emotionally convincing; they have to struggle with the fear, fatigue, impatience, and uncertainty that come along with being cut off from their friends and family in a now hostile environment. Additionally, the book’s action scenes are harrowing and suspenseful without being overwrought or ridiculous. And after the action ends there are consequences, emotionally and physically, from the choices that are made. Characters have to deal with deep moral, psychological, philosophical, and spiritual questions, to which there are no right answers. This is a spectacular book.

It is also the first book in a series of seven. While I highly recommend reading EVERY SINGLE ONE, this book can also stand on its own. The library owns all of the books in the series.

Recommended by Andi

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